Rage ✮1/2

Payback 101

by Glenn Lovell

Paulie Maguire (Nicolas Cage), a former gangbanger turned holier-than-thou family man, is getting the old crew back together to mete out savage revenge. His teen daughter Catlin (played by a cloying Aubrey Peeples) appears to have been kidnapped by members of the Russian mafia. And like a southern-fried Liam Neeson (this film was shot in Mobile, Alabama), Maguire means to have more than his pound of flesh.

“This could get dirty,” warns Maguire’s buddy Kane (Max Ryan). “Just how deep do you want us to go?”

“How deep is hell?” Paulie snarls before leading his friends in a group hug.rageposter

That’s a sampling of the small-talk that runs through RLJ Entertainment’s “Rage,” a pulp-y, no-nonsense vigilante number that sounds like it was scripted by a computer program running Hard-Ass Schwarzenegger. No matter. Where this action quickie falls short on memorable comebacks, it more than makes up for in action, which is plentiful if not especially inspired.

Spanish director Paco Cabezas, here making his U.S. debut, piles on the knife fights, midtown car chases, S&M couplings, crack-house shootouts, and torture scenes. The violence, when it comes, isn’t for the meek, or the easily disoriented. Cabezas specializes in whiplash camera pans and staccato editing. There’s little chance that you’ll nod off here.

Wild man Cage, true to form, holds nothing back. He’s as manic and crazed here as he was calculatingly understated in this year’s earlier “Joe.” Once his beloved Catlin goes missing, Maguire swaps his business suit for brown-leather jacket, the moralistic high ground for scuzzy side of town. Say what you will about the actor, he gives the viewer his money’s worth in facial tics and mad-dog froth. More than once his eyes roll back into his head and he emits a primal scream.

Joining Cage for the fireworks are Danny Glover as the hilariously trusting local police chief, Peter Stormare as Paulie’s former crime boss (now consigned to a wheelchair), and, chewing almost as much scenery as Cage, Pasha D. Lychnikoff as the Russian mafia leader who shows late in the story but more than lives up to his ruthless reputation.

“Rage” isn’t on a par with “Taken” or even this year’s earlier revenge thriller “Cold in July,” but, to its credit, it doesn’t let its bloodied protagonist off with a gentle rap across the knuckles in the twist ending.

RAGE ✮1/2 With Nicolas Cage, Danny Glover, Rachel Nichols, Peter Stormare, Michael McGrady, Max Ryan, Pasha D. Lychnikoff. Directed by Paco Cabezas; scripted by James Agnew, Sean Keller. 98 min. Unrated (would be R for knife, shooting violence, profanity, torture sequence)

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